Surprising Name to Show Up at Spring Practice- In Uniform

Baltimore’s own Wes Brown will be at this year’s spring practice, Rivals.com reveals as part of their running backs preview.

Brown’s status was uncertain given his second suspension by the team towards the end of last season.  Many thought that he would not be back.

Despite his predilection for getting into trouble off the field, and occasional inconsistency on it, the upperclassman would be important depth for the Terrapins, and almost certain to compete for carries if he can keep his nose clean.

Brown backed up the now-graduated Brandon Ross last year and had a small but vocal fan base who called for former head coach Randy Edsall to give him more carries last year.  He got a few more under Mike Locksley, but didn’t look as good as many had hoped.  Even so, every year is another year of experience for a veteran, and another year where more of the toughest run-stoppers he faced previously have graduated from other teams and will be  replaced by younger less experienced players.

It’s unknown at this time whether or not Brown will be eligible to play from game one, or still serve out some extra enforced Saturdays off come next year, but Wes being at spring practice is a good sign.  Though Brown will face some stiff competition, including the returning sophmore Ty Johnson, senior transfer Trey Edmonds, incoming freshman Jake Funk (He of the 57 touchdowns in a single high school season fame), and others; if Brown is allowed to go through all the practices and play from day one, there is a chance he could be the featured tailback.  More likely, if he plays, he’s a role player, but he was last year’s number #2, and last year’s #1 is gone, which means he can’t be ruled out, particularly if the new coaching staff gives him a fresh start and clicks better with him from a teaching and motivational perspective.

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Breaking News: Etta-Tawo Set to Transfer

247 Sports reports that senior Maryland WR Ambo Etta-Tawo is transferring out of the program.

The article speculates that the transfer may be a result of a lot of returning and incoming talent at the position, making playing time a potentially sparse commodity.

247 leaves it at that, but there are some obvious alternative or complentary possible explanations. For example, Etta-Tawo may not want to start over in Walt Bell’s new offensive system, preferring something more similar to what Mike Locksley ran last year and what he signed on for during Mike Edsall’s regime.

It’s also possible that Bell and/or new head coach DJ Durkin told him directly that he’d have to compete for playing time and that they didn’t see him as a good fit if he wasn’t going to be happy not seeing the field much.

Obviously, all of these scenarios could in theory simultaneously be true. No one scenario directly excludes the others. Transfers can be the result of a number of factors, including off the field factors that we would not be privy to at all. After all, if one is not an NFL prospect, a transfer could be motivated by academic concerns, geographic concerns, new or old relationships of any type that you need distance from or need to be closer to, etc..

In any event, though we’re sorry to see this talented young man leave the program, Maryland should be alright at his position, where there will be a lot of talent on the field next year.

We don’t know where Etta-Tawo will land yet, but what we do know is that he’ll be eligible to play right away thanks to the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule. Though he will only become a senior on the football field this coming season, Etta-Tawo plans to graduate from Maryland in May. Under NCAA rules, that makes him eligible to transfer anywhere that will offer him, and to play immediately, provided that he enrolls in a graduate program there that does not have an equivalent at the University of Maryland.

The Long Strange Odyssey of Caleb Rowe

Maryland redshirt senior quarterback Caleb Rowe probably expected to be a starter by now. A lot of Terrapin fans certainly thought he would be.

The calls to bring in Rowe got earth shatteringly loud in 2014, when CJ Brown was quarterbacking the Terrapins. Though 2015 may have made most of us wish CJ Brown, Maryland’s eternal quarterback could somehow squeeze in a 7th year, back in 2014, opinions were mixed.

CJ Brown could run, but he couldn’t throw to save his life. Though it was pretty obvious all along, by the time that teams like South Florida were stacking 8 and 9 people in the box on 3&5s (A heavy run-stop formation on a passing down from a team that really shouldn’t have been able to get away with that against a Big Ten quarterback with good receiving options), you knew that they knew that the guy seemingly couldn’t make a completion to save his life. Not only did they know it, opposing teams obviously knew it.

Even then-Terrapins WR, and current NFL star Stefon Diggs’ younger brother, and current Alabama commit, Trevon Diggs knew it, posting a tweet in the middle of a game begging then-Maryland head coach Randy Edsall to bring in Caleb Rowe.

Rowe has a good throwing arm, there’s no denying that. It’s not an NFL caliber throwing arm by any means, but he can get the ball reasonably far downfield at reasonable velocity, a skill that has eluded a lot of recent Terrapins quarterbacks.

Edsall’s decision to go with Brown was seen as an overly cautious coach making an overly cautious decision. Brown could run, and could in theory manage the game enough to beat the bad teams, even if he didn’t provide the type of juice the team would need to beat the nation’s and the conference’s top teams, or provide a come from behind victory. Believe it or not, and many people who watched the games probably wouldn’t, Brown actually set some team records at Maryland.

When Brown graduated, though, it seemed Terrapin nation was more than ready to hand the reigns to Caleb Rowe for the next year or two. They knew the 3-star pro-style passer out of South Carolina was probably not what people would consider elite, but they looked forward to seeing passes of more than 5 yards that didn’t land in the dirt (With all due respect to CJ Brown, who’s passes weren’t always short and didn’t always land in the dirt- that was just the way it seemed sometimes when we were struggling).

The problem with Rowe was not getting the ball downfield, but rather getting the ball downfield to the guys in the red jerseys, or whatever color UnderArmour had cooked up for the chameleon uniform wearing team from the state where UnderArmour is headquartered.

We all knew accuracy was going to kind of be an issue, but no one dreamed it was going to be quite the issue it was. Edsall tried to start the season with game manager Perry Hills, who also brought some leadership and guts to the huddle, but when your “game manager” quarterback is throwing picks and losing to Bowling Green, you might just have to look to your bench.

As it turns out, Edsall may have had reasons other than “He lacks seniority”, conservatism, or pure stubbornness for not starting Caleb Rowe initially. He’d watched the man in practice, and may have had inkling of what was to come.

In 2015, Rowe, who did finally get to play after Hills sputtered, threw 6 touchdowns to 15 interceptions.  Not a pretty picture.  Even uglier if you were watching it.  At least one of his interceptions came on his first passing attempt of a game.  Not what you’re looking for our of your redshirt junior quarterback.

However, in 2016, Maryland finds itself in a tough sitaution quarterback wise.  They do have two senior scholarship quarterbacks- Rowe and Hills.  However, as alluded to earlier in this post, neither inspire a ton of confidence as a solution at quarterback.  Both were big parts of Maryland’s epically poor play at quarterback next year, when they were statistically among the worst teams in the entire FBS at the position.

Gage Shaffer, a sophmore (or perhaps a redshirt freshman, not sure if the team tagged him with the redshirt last year, though he didn’t play) out of West Virginia, wasn’t rated very highly by scouts coming out of high school, and was considered a project.  Some people liked his performance at last year’s spring game, but that he didn’t get into a game last season when first Edsall and then interim head coach Mike Locksley were fighting to keep their jobs probably says something about his state of readiness.  He’ll get a chance to compete and keep on improving, as will the two senior quarterbacks, in spring practice and beyond, but it’s more of a wish and a prayer situation than someone we could confidently project right now as the starter from day one in 2016.

There are a few other QBs hanging around from last year- Shane Cockerville, most notably, but if they didn’t play last year…. Well, one wonders.

That brings us to the freshmen.  Maryland thought they were going to get 4-star Bullis quarterback Dwayne Haskins.  He committed verbally very strongly and started recruiting guys and…. Well, I’m not getting into that in this post.  Suffice is to say, screw Ohio State.  I hope Haskins enjoys holding a clipboard for the next four to six years.  He’ll be booed when he comes “home” and deservedly so.

But Maryland was able to pick up the pieces a bit from that recruiting fiasco.  Tyrell Pigrome, while short, is a dual-threat QB that may Maryland fans view as having potential, and who new offensive coordination Walt Bell and new head coach DJ Durkin have both talked up big, possibly in part to try to cushion fan panic about Haskins decommitting.  With the quarterback situation as it is, I can’t absolutely rule out him starting day one under the circumstances, I don’t know if the 3-star prospect is going to play at all, or ever start.  And if he does start as a true freshman, well, true freshmen are often pretty raw.

There is another kid coming in, Max Bortenschlager, who some services rate as a 2-star and others as a 3-star, who is a pro style QB without a great arm, but who is excellent at finding and hitting receivers in stride, and placing balls where corners can’t find them.  I see him as potentially an excellent game manager in the making.  I think he’s better than his rating.  But he is a game manager, his throwing arm will never make him elite.  And it’s hard to think he’ll be effective as a game manager as a true freshman.  Usually you need a couple years under your belt before you’re ready to manage games- because game managers are primarily about mistake avoidance, and you need a lot of practice in your offensive system and reading college level defenses before you can fill that role, generally speaking.  And, obviously, he’s not going to be a gunslinger.

So, that brings us around back to Rowe, and the question is, can he start for Maryland and be effective in 2016?  It doesn’t seem likely, but he’s going to have a chance to win the job, and there is a new coaching staff to teach him, and a new system that he might be better suited for.  In a sense, it’s a change of scenery without a change of scenery.

I’m not real confident that we’ll get much out of Rowe in his final year at College Park, but you never know.  It’s looking like we might have a half dozen or so quarterbacks in the mix, all of whom have potential in one respect or another, and Rowe might have the best arm of the bunch.  He’s going to need to look to cut down on turnovers and increase his accuracy significantly if he wants to win the job and play, though, and, well, we’ll see…

A quick uptempo Walt Bell offensive could cut either way for him.  Some quarterbacks throw picks because they don’t have time to think, which an uptempo offense would worsen the effect of, especially if you add to that the possibility that he’ll have to make a lot of option-reads after the snap.  On the other hand, sometimes guys have good instincts, and overthink things and get nervous and throw picks because they have *too much* time to think- something the Bell offense could conceivably cut down on.

My gut tells me that a senior transfer quarterback might be out best bet, and that’s still a possibility.  But Rowe will be in the mix if he plays well in practice.